The New York Times asked oscar winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski to direct 11 scenes (or rather: vignettes) with outstanding actresses. The result is really great.
in selected Austrian cinemas
Screenings at Int. Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg
Runtastic Story Running
Das jüngste Gericht – part 1
Das jüngste Gericht – part 2
Mord in bester Gesellschaft – In Teufels Küche
One of my script consulting teachers, Don Bohlinger, professor at the USC film department, taught me this:
“Each scene is either a chase or an escape.”
It is not only true for scenes with actual chases in action movies, but for basically every scene with more than one characters in it, and it is even true for scenes with a single character who has an inner conflict.
Today I found this quote by screenwriter and director Mike Nichols:
“Every scene is either a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation.” (source)
This also seems to be a good way to look at the scenes you write or analyze, especially if you check your draft before doing a major rewrite or prepare notes for a script meeting.
Questions you might want to ask:
- Does each scene have a conflict?
- What is this conflict about?
- If it is more than one person: Who has a high status, who has the low status?
- Who is chasing/seducing/fighting whom and why?
- Who is trying to escape and why?
- And do the characters switch status during the scene( which I personally always find interesting)?
Recently I had a discussion with a guy. He thought it was not important to “gender” the German language according to male/female expressions. (Maybe this is hard to comprehend in English, so here is an explanation).
Anyways, the guy said it is all about mutual respect. While I consider this important as well, I still think that we should use language in a respectful way, because in my opinion language is an image of real life. But though this post is not about gender-relevant language, the discussion with that guy reminded me of something else.
A friend of mine, Nicola von Leffern, recently emailed me the link to a speech by Joss Whedon. I already knew it, but I had never shared it here on my blog. It is about the question why he writes strong female characters. From min. 6:25 it gets really interesting.
And it also reminded me on this interview with George R.R. Martin, author of GAME OF THRONES:
Thank you for your attention.
p.s.: For everyone living in Vienna: From Nov.22nd to 24th there is a seminar at the Drehbcuhforum about Focus On Characters – Writing the Heroine’s Story with Helen Jacey. Join in!
Bastian’s Father: I got a call from your math teacher, yesterday. She says that you were drawing horses in your math book.
Bastian: Unicorns. They were unicorns.
Bastian’s Father: What?
When “The Neverending Story” hit the movie theaters, I was almost 12 years old. I saw the movie several times and read everything I could get hold of. In the end I knew the end credits by heart as well as the soundtrack. By the way, who remembers the theme song by Limahl? Join in! “Neverending Stoooo-ho-ryyyy – ahahaa ahahaa ahahaaaaa”.
Many years later it got really interesting. Because I asked myself what had drawn me to this movie when I was a kid. And I found out that it was not the hero, Atreju, though I had his poster hanging above my bed and I cried every time I saw his horse Artax dying in the Swamps Of Sadness.
In the meantime I am quite sure that I identified with Bastian, the anti-hero. The kid who read as many books as I did when I was a child. The kid who always wanted to be part of the stories, but did not have the courage to be strong in real life. The kid who was told to have both feet on the ground. The kid who excelled himself when he could influence the stories in his book. This was the emotional theme through which I could connect to the story.
It is really interesting what you find when you think back to your childhood movies as an adult.
And what are your childhood movies telling you about your grown-up self?
At the Sources 2 workshop I attended in October, Michael Seeber held a wonderful lecture about keeping your ego out of the mentoring process (at least this was the core of the speech in my opinion).
The title was “Yang-Shan Meets San-Cheng Or The Art Of Mentoring”. You can download it here, next to a lot of other interesting lectures from the Sources 2 workshops of the last years.
In the future I am going to write more about storytelling as such, and also about cross media storytelling. This will include branded content and branded entertainment.
This is the first example: Sarah is born with an incomplete left arm. Sarah’s mum starts looking for children with a similar problem on the interne, and she finds Paige. The girls start skyping and become best friends. But Sarah lives inthe United States and Paige lives in New Zealand, so theyonly meet in “real life” 8 years later.
Of course this video is a tear jerker and you could call it even manipulative on an emotional level. But I like it, because I know that it is an ad for Skype and still it seems plausible and authentic in my opinion. And the brand stays in the background. In addition to that I like the idea with the projection and the photos to visualize the distance and closeness of the two girls before they meet.
The video is part of the “Family Portraits” series, where you can see more similar stories.
While discussing our favorite scriptwriting literature on Facebook with some friends, I remembered that I wrote a long review about David Mamet’s book “On Directing Film” back in February 2013 for the newsletter of the Association Of Film- And TV Script Consultants (VeDra). This is the article:
The moments that shifted my perspectives on screenplays as a script consultant often happened when I was looking beyond my own nose – in the editing room, while repeating lines with an actor or while sitting next to the director on set.
Thus it is a book that has the word “Directing” as part of its title, that is one of my favorite books on scriptwriting since years: ON DIRECTING FILM is based on a series of lectures given by writer and director David Mamet in 1987 at Columbia University’s film school. The book is only 128 pages long, and it is polemic, radical and unorthodox, which makes reading it a very un-analytical pleasure.
THE ACT OF KILLING by Josh Oppenheimer is a159 minutes long examination of perpetrators boasting about their killings. And it is one of the most powerful documentaries that I have seen in a long time.
The movie is about the men who killed more than 100.000 “communists” during the Sumatra massacres in 1965 (I have put communists in quotes because many were killed without reason). And a lot of these perpetrators live a completely normal live today and are boasting about their acts of killing. They are seen (and see themselves) as heroes.
A few days before I saw the film at the Viennale Film festival, I attended a lecture hosted by EAVE, where producer Signe Byrge Sorensen talked about the long making and also about the unorthodox distribution of the movie (privately organized screenings in Indonesia to avoid censorship; the rethinking by the government about the perpetrators after the movie was released and so on).
The movie does not show the victims. But it stays wit the perpetrators until they start deconstructing themselves and their beliefs. The director does not only go along woth them during their everyday lives, but he offers them to reenact the scenes of their killings. For this movie about themselves they are acting as perpetrators and sometimes also as victims.
Somehow the film managed that I was never sympathizing with the protagonists, though I was really close to them for a long time. Even not in the end, when I got the feeling that at least one of them realized that he is guilty of murder.
I could write much more about this movie, as I kept thinking abut it for days. But I think you should simply watch it. This is the trailer:
Only few of my friends liked Thomas Arslan’s last movie IM SCHATTEN (IN THE SHADOW). I did, and somehow I did not mind the long scenes where almost nothing happens.
So I was looking forward to seeing GOLD, because I was eager to know how a genre movie would deal with slowness and gaps in the narration.
On the surface GOLD is a rather traditional western. But I think that it is actually a film about the surviving of humanity. Because we all now “man is a wolf to man”, especially in a group in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by unknown perils.
So far, so predictable. But also interesting, because the question is how a German arthouse writer/director would deal with the typical topoi of the Western genre.
Though I really wanted to like this film, I could not connect to it, especially to the characters. My biggest problems were the dialogs which I found rather stereotypical and staged. And I had the feeling that I had seen all this already in other movies. The narration was not focused enough and too conventional for my taste. I would have loved to see it executed in a lighter, playful and less predictable way.
But I missed especially one thing: The film tells the tale of a group of German immigrants looking for gold, money and happiness. This justifies why everyone is talking in German. But otherwise I missed the problem of “being German” in a foreign country full of possibilities and risks as a topic almost throughout the movie. There was the old couple, the young wild one, the macho looking for power and the greedy business man. And then there is the woman with a secret. But in the end it is a group of people fighting to survive. And it does not matter that they are German, as the characters did what I would expect from any character in a Western movie.
Now this can mean two things: Either we are all the same, no matter where we come from. Or there were not enough ideas to visualize this aspect, though I read that the writer/director Thomas Arslan found it important that his characters are German.
Anyway, though I enjoyed seeing the vast landscapes, it was not exactly my cup of tea.
Do you know that feeling when everything is happening at once? I mean, during the Viennale Film Festival. This year I had the presentation of Runtastic Story Running, and now I caught a nasty cold. But somehow I managed to watch three movies, so here is the first review.
I was really looking forward to LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (SOCHITE CHICHI NI NARU) by Koreeda Hirokazu. My relationship with the Asian movies I have seen so far is not always the best, but I loved Koreeda’s movie NOBODY KNOWS.
I am often fascinated by the simple premise of Koreeda’s stories. With NOBODY KNOWS it is only one sentence: A mother leaves her four kids behind, only leaving a letter and some money on the kitchen table. The whole story is then told only from the perspective of the eldest 12 year old brother. There are few movies that moves me so much by their simplicity as that one.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON has a likewise simple topic: Two married couples realize that their sons were switched at birth. Both come from very different social backgrounds, and both have the same question: What to do now?
Unfortunately the simplicity of the story did not really convince me this time. I found the storytelling a bit banal and a bit redundant. Maybe one reason was the plot: Normally you would do a melodramatic tv movie or a over the top comedy with this story material.
But this was exactly the reason why I was interested how Koreeda tackles the topic. I was expecting a sensitive and detailed observation, but to my mind it was a bit blunt and thus too obvious:
On one side you have the rich family with a father projecting his own ambitions onto his son, who might have difficulties to find his own personality. On the other hand you have the poor, but happy family, who is dealing with the son in a much more loving, personal way. I felt that I had seen this setup several times already, and I found it too predictable.
But as always when the content of a movie does not really touch me, my brain finds other things to do. Here it was the editing and the mis en scene which I thought were really well done. I notices especially the movements of and in front of the camera, which told their own stories without words. But altogether my start at the Viennale this year was rather so-so.